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Get Ready for the 50/50 Challenge

Trash pickup in Anne Arundel goes weekly starting June 4

The day of reckoning is here. Starting Monday, June 4, Anne Arundel County cuts one of your twice-weekly trash pickup days. Your new one-day-only pick-ups for trash, recycling and yard debris will be the day that you usually put your recycling on the curb. So, if Monday’s your tri-refusa day and Thursday your uni-trash day, Monday it will stay.
    Make sure it’s to the curb by 6am. Forget or come out too late, and your stuff will belong to the dogs and crows until next week rolls along.
    The cut to one day a week pickup had been rumored for a while, and last January it was made official.
    “The increased recycling at the curbside has made the current second trash collection day unnecessary and wasteful,” county spokesman Dave Abrams announced.
    Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold added that the switch will save money.
    “Recycling has paid off for Anne Arundel County,” Leopold said. “We are confident that savings from fewer trash pickups will allow us to reduce the fee charged to residents for trash collection.”

Virtue’s Reward: $1.42 per Month
    The Once-A-Week Curbside Trash Collection initiative saves Anne Arundel County $1.9 million a year on trash and recycling removal. Last fiscal year, Anne Arundel paid $25.4 million for twice-weekly pickup of trash and weekly pickup of recyclables and yard waste. Each pickup continues to have its own truck and crew.
    Instead of spending the savings, Leopold is passing it on to citizens. Solid waste collection fees will drop from $315 to $298 in every one of Anne Arundel’s 151,000 households.
    Sure it’s only $17, but when before has Anne Arundel County given you even 17 cents? It’s a first.
    You’re getting the savings because fee-for-service monies like solid-waste disposal fees by law can’t be shifted to the general fund.
    Will the $17 savings balance the reduction in service? At $1.42 per month, Eric Van Lill of Severna Park would rather have a second trash pick-up day, especially now that crab-eating season is upon us.
    “Crab shells will sit out there for six days in the summer,” says Van Lill, whose pickup day is Friday. “It’s going to create a headache for me.”

Want Less Trash? Recycle More
    Van Lill could solve his problem by composting his crab shells. Not easily, though, because crab shells biodegrade slowly. But eventually they make great fertilizer. Chesapeake Blue, composted crab waste and sawdust, has been a favorite of the Bay Gardener Dr. Francis Gouin.
    But the principle holds true. Recycling more takes an active, creative frame of mind.
    The Once-A-Week Curbside Trash Collection initiative can help you get to that mindset. Here’s the way to start thinking.
    Recycling is a lot easier and more convenient now than the days before single-stream recycling, when you had to sort and separate your recyclable paper from metal from plastic from glass. Nowadays, you don’t even have to rinse anything.
    As recycling became easier, the level in many recycling bins rose as the level in the trash container fell. The result: Anne Arundel County’s average recycling rate has risen from 32 percent in 2006 to 41 percent today.
    The rise, Leopold says, reflects popular support for recycling. “When people recycle, I think that they feel good about it,” he says. “So, that’s why I think you see that increased participation.”
    Still, we could do better. Leopold’s goal — the 50/50 Challenge — is for the county to climb to an overall recycling rate of 50 percent by the time he leaves office in 2014. To meet that challenge, you’ll have to match every can of trash you put at the curb with an equally big bin of recycling.
    Part of the strategy is the super-sizing of the recycling bins we get courtesy of the county as part of our solid-waste disposal service. The first batch —yellow bins a size up from beer cases — appeared at our curbs with the commencement of curbside recycling in 1991. They were replaced by 32-gallon yellow cans. The next step up is 65-gallon wheeled and lidded containers being tested in low-recycling communities to see if bigger leads to more recycling.
    Seeing how much you can recycle is fun, and it can keep you from needing to buy another garbage can to see you through the new whole-week cycle. Reaching 50/50 matters in the big picture, too.
    When we fill up the county’s Millersville landfill — anticipated in about 2030 — where are we going to find another?
    Each of us produces about 4.4 pounds of garbage a day, for 29 pounds a week and a whopping 1,600 pounds a year, according to EPA figures. As a nation, we throw away enough aluminum to duplicate the full U.S. commercial air fleet, according to WM Recycle America.
    And yes, aluminum can go in your recycling bin.
    Big changes happen person by person. Meeting the 50/50 Challenge — and sliding through once-weekly solid waste pickup — takes looking at every item for its recycling potential.

How to Get to 50/50
    With all of the different kinds of plastics out there, you’d think that was where we were missing the recycling boat.
    Instead, the biggest recyclable that ends up in the landfill is paper.
    “People unfortunately don’t do enough with recycling paper,” says Leopold, who recycles paper, plastic, bottles and jars at home.
    Paper is easy to recycle. Toss it all — cardboard, empty detergent boxes, newspapers, magazines and junk mail — in your recycler.
    Plastic doesn’t take much thinking, either. All plastics can go in, from soda bottles to flower pots.
    Most food scraps decompose more quickly than crab shells, making great compost. Composting veggie scraps, eggshells and coffee grounds has been one of the biggest relievers of trash stress — and its stink. Anne Arundel County will get you started with a round black bin that can be adjusted to fit the size of your outdoor space. Dump in food waste plus other yard debris, including spent weeds and fall leaves. Master Gardeners give frequent classes in composting, listed regularly in 8 Days a Week.
    Read Bay Weekly for special dates when both Anne Arundel and Calvert counties collect difficult waste, including fabric, electronics and household hazardous wastes.
    With standard recycling, creative repurposing and composting kitchen scraps, you might get to that Uber Recycling Place where Anne Arundel’s once-weekly trash pickup is no problem. If you’re in Calvert, your incentive is bigger still since nobody but you picks up your trash or recycling.